Pro-life sidewalk counselors criticized leaders of Louisville, Kentucky for violating their First Amendment rights Thursday by passing a buffer zone around the only abortion facility in the city.
Abortion activists have been pressuring the Louisville Metro Council to pass a buffer zone for years, and on Thursday, they succeeded.
WAVE 3 News reports the council voted 14-11 in favor of creating a 10-foot buffer zone around EMW Women’s Surgical Center, an abortion facility. All seven Republicans on the council and four Democrats voted against the ordinance, according to WFPL Radio.
Though the ordinance technically applies to all health care facilities in the city, it specifically mentions the abortion facility; and it was apparent from abortion activists’ and council members’ statements that restricting pro-life advocacy is the goal.
The new ordinance prohibits protesters or people who are praying from coming within 10 feet of the abortion facility. It orders the city Public Works to mark the zone with lines on the sidewalk. Anyone who violates the ordinance may be punished with fines up to $500.
Supporters argued that the buffer zone is needed to protect patients’ safety, but pro-life advocates said they are peaceful and prayerful.
“We just give them information. If they want it, that’s fine. If not, we’ll just say a prayer for them,” local pro-life advocate Ruth Anne Shumate-Reed told the city council. “We want to save those women, save those women and save their children.”
Others criticized the buffer zone as a free speech violation, including councilman Robin Engel. He said the ordinance pushes people off the public sidewalk where they have a constitutional right to free speech.
“You’re telling me I can’t go down and peacefully assemble in front of EMW with my mouth shut and say the rosary or read the Bible? You’re telling me you’re going to kick me off my public sidewalk? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, folks,” Engel said last year when the council considered a similar ordinance.
In August 2020, the council narrowly rejected a 12-foot buffer zone ordinance, but abortion advocacy groups promised not to give up the fight.
Council members Cassie Chambers-Armstrong and Jecorey Arthur advocated strongly for the ordinance, citing police calls and other reported safety concerns, according to the local news.
Erin Smith of the pro-abortion Kentucky Health Justice Network also claimed the buffer zone is necessary to prevent harassment.
“No one should be harassed. No one should be assaulted going to get medical treatment, no matter the reason,” Smith said.
Though abortion activists try to portray pro-lifers as aggressive and mean, pro-lifers are overwhelmingly peaceful and compassionate. They volunteer to stand outside abortion facilities to offer mothers help and save unborn babies from slaughter. Sometimes pro-life sidewalk counselors are victims of assault and harassment.
Pro-life sidewalk counselors do save lives. In 2020, Sidewalk Counselors for Life celebrated helping 10,000 mothers choose life for their unborn babies in its six years of ministry. They encourage mothers to give their babies a chance at life and connect them with community resources, including pregnancy resource centers, that provide financial and material help.
Buffer zones across the country are being challenged in court as a violation of free speech. While the U.S. Supreme Court did grant a victory to pro-lifers in a 2014 buffer zone case, it recently refused to hear two other cases involving pro-life advocates’ freedom to speak on public sidewalks outside abortion facilities in Pennsylvania and Chicago.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a 35-foot Massachusetts buffer zone law. However, other smaller buffer zones still are in place across the U.S.